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Arkansas officials react to abortion ruling; 'trigger law' to take effect

The empty Arkansas Senate chamber on July 29. On Tuesday, lawmakers began a special session to consider how to spend the state's $1.6 billion surplus from the last fiscal year.
Michael Hibblen
In 2019, the General Assembly credited trigger laws in case the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

With the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling Friday ending the constitutional right to an abortion, a so-called trigger law passed by the Arkansas Legislature immediately makes abortion illegal in the state.

The decision formally overturns the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, according toNPR News, giving states the authority to set abortion laws.

According to Ballotpedia, 19 states have laws banning the procedure that are now enforceable.

Arkansas’ trigger law was passed in 2019, sponsored by Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, and included language that this would become law if the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. The legislation was signed into law by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, though he said at the time it was dependent on the nation’s high court deciding the matter.

On Friday, he said the court's ruling will allow the state's trigger laws to go into effect.

"For decades I have said Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided. Today, the Supreme Court overturned the abortion ruling and returned the issue to the states. Arkansas is a pro-life state, and we are able now to protect life," Hutchinson said in a statement on Twitter.

Candidates vying to become the next governor also offered their views

Republican Sarah Huckabee Sanders:

"For decades, this is a day so many of us have prayed for and worked towards. I am thankful for the brave resolve of the six Supreme Court justices who - while receiving death threats and extreme political pressure - did what is right: defending the lives of the most innocent and vulnerable in our society.

As Americans, we value the sanctity of life, and it is in our very nature to protect it. As a mom, I know the love that each of my three children have brought to our family, and, as governor, I will fight to keep Arkansas one of the most pro-life states in the nation."

Democrat Chris Jones:

“This successful attack on Roe will only embolden more attacks on our other constitutional rights. We’re already witnessing an attack on our voting rights, our right to privacy, our access to education, and so much more. At this rate, our children are going to have fewer rights in this country than our parents did. We just can’t let that happen.

This decision from the Supreme Court undermines decades of judicial precedent, and also opens the floodgates for vigilante-style laws that pit neighbor against neighbor and would lead to chaos and a new era of big government-mandated pregnancies.”

Members of Arkansas’ congressional delegation react

Republican Sen. Tom Cotton’s response:

Roe was a tragic mistake, taking from the American people and their elected representatives a deeply moral question. The Supreme Court has finally corrected this mistake and I highly commend the millions of Americans who toiled for years to achieve this great victory for unborn life and self-government.”

Republican Sen. John Boozman’s response:

“The SCOTUS decision affirming there's no constitutional right to indiscriminately sacrifice the lives of children in their mothers’ wombs is the culmination of decades of work to correct the tragic, deadly lie that unborn babies are expendable and undeserving of protection.

Republican U.S. Rep. French Hill of Arkansas 2nd district:

“As a man of faith and as a father, I have always and will continue to support policies that uplift families and value life. I am pleased with the Supreme Court's decision today, that elevates life by affirming that there is no constitutional right to an abortion.”

The Arkansas Family Council is scheduled to hold a press conference at the state Capitol at 11:30. In a written statement, the group’s president Jerry Cox said:

“This isn’t just a pro-life victory. It’s a victory for democracy. Roe v. Wade put unelected judges in charge of America’s abortion policy, and it has tainted the judicial confirmation process for more than forty years. Today’s decision doesn’t end abortion altogether. It lets voters and their representatives set their own abortion laws. Going forward, voters, state legislatures, and Congress will get to decide what abortion laws they want to enact.”

Ronak Patel is a reporter for Little Rock Public Radio.
Michael Hibblen was a journalist for KUAR News from May 2009 — December 2022. During his final 10 years with the station, he served as News Director. In January 2023, he was hired by Arkansas PBS to become its Senior Producer/ Director of Public Affairs.